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Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage : Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars : Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers : Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, an essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Lou Gare. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [2 CDs] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [VINYL] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


Moholo-Moholo's, Louis Five Blokes: Uplift The People (Ogun)

Drummer Moholo-Moholo, a member of Blue Notes, Elton Dean's Ninesene, Foxes Fox, London Improvisers Orchestra, a sideman for Brotzmann, Keith Tippets sideman and drummer and most importantly, band leader in a rich, lyrical and spiritual album recorded live at Cafe Oto in 2017 with Alexander Hawkins (piano), John Edwards (bass), Shabaka Hutchings (sax) and Jason Yard (sax). ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (Live At Tufts University) (Aum Fidelity)

A long-form 3-part work of collective improvisation from 3 masterful New York free jazz legends--Daniel Carter on flute, trumpet, clarinet, and saxophones, William Parker on bass, and Matthew Shipp on piano--performing live at Tufts University in 2017 in a beautifully thoughtful and lyrical concert presented after a screening of the '59 film "The Cry of Jazz". ... Click to View


Ceramic Dog (Ribot / Ches Smith / Shahzad Ismaily): Y R U Still Here? [VINYL] (Northern Spy)

... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports [VINYL] (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


Mette Rasmussen / Tashi Dorji: (Feeding Tube Records)

Captured live, the excitingly assertive improvisation of Danish saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and Bhutan electric guitarist Tashi Dorji on the stage at Hotel2Tango in Montreal, Quebec in 2016, and at La Sala Rosa, each pushing the limits on their instruments while retaining control of their conversation, a taught balancing act of extraordinary playing. ... Click to View


Elisabeth Harnik / Joelle Leandre: Tender Music (Trost Records)

Two like-minded musicians with a history in compositional and improvised music, pianist and prepared pianist Elisabeth Harnik and double bassist and vocalist Joelle Leandre met at WIST, in Graz, Austria in 2016 to perform and record this live album of insightful and compelling dialog between two masterful musicians full of creativity and virtuosic skill. ... Click to View


Zu / Mats Gustafsson: How To Raise An Ox [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The first vinyl edition of the 2004 collaboration of Italian power trio Zu of Luca Tommaso Mai on baritone sax, Massimo Pupillo on bass, and Jacopo Battaglia on drums, with Swedish baritone sax phenomenon Mats Gustafsson, what Atavistic calls a "hypno-skronk implosion" of dueling baritones sax over wonderfully intense and skronky free improvisation; a classic! ... Click to View


Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (Clean Feed)

With a history of playing together in the Andrew Hill Sextet, Marty Ehrlich immediately chose bassist John Hebert and drummer Nasheet Waits to join Ehrlich in his new trio endeavor, the multi-wind & reed player on alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and wooden flutes as they perform 9 lyrical and sophisticated Ehrlich compositions, plus one by Andrew Hill. ... Click to View


Chrome Hill: The Explorer (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quartet formerly known as "Damp" with baritone guitarist Asbjorn Lerheim, tenor saxophonist Atle Nymo, drummer Torstein Lofthus, and double bassist Roger Arntzen, blend expressive forms of jazz with blues and rock in an expansive and rich set of tunes that both pay homage and look to new and inclusive formations of emotional and effusive music. ... Click to View


Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg: Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian experimental collective improvising group of Henrik Munkeby Norstebo on trombone, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Andreas Wildhagen on drums & percussion are the core trio here, presenting their third release by adding free improvising vocalist Sofia Jernberg, bringing a sense of unpredictability to a finely controlled chaos of technical mastery. ... Click to View


Rafael Toral / Hugo Antunes / Joao Pais Filipe / Ricardo Webbens: Space Quartet (Clean Feed)

Composer, engineer and electronic artist Rafael Toral has completed his Space Program series and now launches his "Space Quartet" with double bassist Hugo Antunes, drummer/percussionist Joao Pais Filipe, synth player Ricardo Webbens, and Toral himself on modular feedback, blending solid acoustic rhythms with interstellar and abstract sound; singular. ... Click to View


Kirk Knuffke / Ben Goldberg: Uncompahgre (Relative Pitch)

Two extraordinary players from two coasts--clarinetist Ben Goldberg from the West and cornetist Kirk Knuffke from the East--in an exuberant duo of lyrical and virtuosic free jazz that astonishes the listener with the ease of their interactions in both parallel and contrasting lines, supporting the other as they express themselves uniquely; an impressive achievement! ... Click to View


Tomeka Reid / Kyoko Kitamura / Taylor Ho Bynum / Joe Morris: Geometry of Caves (Relative Pitch)

Bringing New York and Chicago performers together, the quartet of cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Joe Morris, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and free vocalist Kyoko Kitamura present an album of expressive and creative collective improvisation, bridging chamber forms and free jazz with a captivatingly eccentric appeal from Kitamura's wordless vocalese. ... Click to View


Tatakai Trio (Kuchen / Lindsjo / Strid): HappI (Relative Pitch)

A trio of well-versed Swedish free improvisers--Martin Kuchen on soprano & sopranino saxophones, Raymond Strid on drums, and Anders Lijndsjo on guitar--in 8 studio improvisations of unusual and highly rhythmic and upbeat interplay, titled with happy adjectives, an apt description of the joy these three find in unconventional approaches to improvisation. ... Click to View


Stephanie Richards : Full Moon (Relative Pitch)

An extremely interesting experimental record of free improvisation and electronics from the duo of Dino J.A. Deane and trumpeter Stephanie Richards, whose work with Henry Threadgill and Butch Morris is felt in these pieces where Richards explores resonance in brass and percussion as Deane samples and manipulates her playing live; an inventive and effusive album. ... Click to View


Fujii / Fonda / Mimmo: Triad (Long Song Records)

An album recorded on the 59th birthday of pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, the second recorded with bassist Joe Fonda on the Long Song imprint, this time in a trio with soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, the focus of the album the 42 minute monumental improvisation "Birthday Girl", a sophisticated and engaging dialog of lyrical playing and great beauty. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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The Bottom Shelf is where artists keep the records in their collections that they might not want you to see. Revealing early influences, unusual appetites or just guilty pleasures, we offer a peek at the shelves of some of our favorite musicians.


  Our Own Bottom Shelves  

Over the last year, we've asked musicians Ron Anderson, Anthony Coleman and Gary Lucas to come clean about their private predilections, to reveal for our readers the records they might try to hide when company comes over. For The Squid's Ear's First Or So Anniversary issue, publisher Phil Zampino and editor Kurt Gottschalk belly up to the bar, revealing some of the deep embarrassment of questionable riches in their own collections.



Phil Zampino's Bottom Shelf  

I take a lot of grief from certain friends regarding my love of progressive chestnuts like Van Der Graaf Generator, Gong, Jethro Tull and (early) Genesis.  Certain time-bound predilections simply refuse to fade. But last summer I revisited something from the beginning of my listening days: Steppenwolf, in particular, the Live album.  Anyone who gives me grief for this one needs to be ready for an earful.

I re-approached Steppenwolf Live with great trepidation.  This album sat alongside Iron Butterfly's In a Gadda Da Vida in my early listening habits.  Persistent memory dictates that it can't be uncoupled from visions of a spastic me, flailing around the living room and enthusing about how "cool" this music was.  At the age of 8 I really didn't understand anything clearly about the political and world crises of the day.  I knew there was unrest and criticism.  Steppenwolf became an unfocused focal point of that turbulent era for me.  I know as a child that I thought the song "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam" actually had to do with "Keep Off the Grass" signs, and how oppressive our government was for forcing us onto the path.  I didn't get any of the cocaine or sex references.  Hey, I was a kid!

The gatefold copy with the big Wolf's head on the cover that impressed me so belonged to my older brother.  I think in the end I listened to it as much as he did, and maybe a bit more.  I don't still listen to his Kiss albums.  But when Steppenwolf crept back into my head I at last bought my own copy on cd, of course, a tiny booklet with a picture that couldn't rival the power of that 12" wolf's head threatening you from the gatefold.  And I gave it a spin.

In reflection perhaps I just filed the memory of this album away until I needed it.  Maybe I knew that I shouldn't be burnt out on it when the message applied again.  Steppenwolf's songs express outrage and criticism of government practices that apply to our current situation.  Along with, of course, a lot of '60s 'turn on tune in, smokin' the grass' sentiment.  It talks about the war on drugs (Don't Step on the Grass, Sam, criticizes the using community at the same time (The Pusher) and, boldest of all, it takes on the government (Monster) with commentary that's clear and direct and every bit as vital today as it was then.  Between songs John Kay talk about working together with the government to preserve what's good in our great land.  It's uplifting, patriotic and challenging to the status quo all at the same time, while extolling the virtues of sex and pills and having a good old Magic Carpet Ride.  And it played on FM before Clear Channel owned the air.

Sadly Steppenwolf made a deliberate decision to shift away from their characteristic culturally charged spiel late in their career, a decision that resulted in some decent records that don't distinguish themselves from other rock blands of the time.  To these ears the music already sounds a bit out of step with the ever-changing rock scene they once carried such a strong voice in. Steppenwolf has remained a surprisingly tenacious band, and in their current incarnation they have a stiff schedule of biker shows, city fests and casino's planned for 2004.  I don't know if they still play Monster, but their message has never had a more appropriate time.  That it's not in heavy rotation on every classic rock radio station now is a sad statement of the time.

Steppenwolf.com

Zacherley, the "Cool Ghoul," was a '50s television movie prompter, a demonic figure who introduced monster movies to a New York area punctuated with ghastly sketches and creative comedic "break-ins" during the movies. John Zacherle was born in Pennsylvania, 1918 (the character he went on to create is spelled as "Zacherley"). He went on to make a splash with his song "Dinner with Drac" on the Parkway label, which ran to #6 on Billboard and garnered appearances on American Bandstand.  He put out a book, 3 lps, several singles, a few videos, even Transylvannian Passports. The personae of Zacherley lays itself out in an insinuated Charles Addams world of vampires, mummies, werewolves, monster monkeys, monster mothers-in-law and body snatchers.  He snorted with a characteristic condescendence while asking Igor for this or that assistance in his macabre machinations.  Zacherle was sardonic and, er, bitingly witty.  It was all in good fun, and to this day Zacherle plays to a small cult following.

I never watched Zacherley on TV.  My father did.  My father reveled in scary stories and in spooking his children.  He still tells with guilty amusement how he made my older brother, then a toddler, fly out of the bedroom as he tricked him into thinking there was a ghost in the room. Nightly he threatened us that while we slept the "liver snatcher" was going to sneak in and remove our livers through our noses using a pair of needle-nose pliers.

One day my father brought home a peculiar orange and black record on the Parkway label: Zacherley's Scary Tales: a collection of "scary" songs and stories, narratives in pop genres - surf, jazzy pop, doo-wop, pop rock, done with capable studio musicians, good arrangements and decent production.  All the songs are sung by the ghastly Zacherley, who's Transylvanian laugh punctuated the music in a way that paid homage to and laughed at the idea of B horror.  I had no idea who he was, but I took to it immediately.  

For the next few years my family quoted the songs from that record, and many an afternoon my brother and I "surfed" our beds to "Surf Board 109" as the mummy took yet another a dive: "first bath he's had since 10 BC."  It was a good pop record, right up there with The Archies, and that's high praise coming from an 8-year-old boy (remembering how he cut out an Archies 7" single from the back of a Super Sugar Crisp cereal box...)  To top it off, the first track on the second side had three parallel grooves, so depending upon where you dropped the needle you got different lyrics.  How cool is that?...

Last year it struck me to find out what other releases were available, and to try to find a less destructed copy of the lp than my brother and I had left my father. I searched eBay - the melting pot of all unusual and cul-de-sac culture - and found that the "Spook Along with Zacherly" lp had been rereleased on cd; relieving, as I'd seen the original lp at a record collector's show priced at more than $200!  I "bought-it-now," and successfully bid on the "Monster Mash" LP as well.  Sadly "Scary Tales itself has been less forthcoming.  Of the 3 releases I now have access to I still mostly listen to a cassette tape of our very crackly copy of "Scary Tales."  I'm sure that's pushed on by my inner 8-year-old's devilish grin, part of the frightening amount of happiness that tape brings me.

Zacherley.com





Kurt Gottschalk's Bottom Shelf  

The Beatles ruined pop. Before the Fab Four took over the western world, there was a suitable division of labor. You had singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. Nobody was expected to do it all. But in the epoch after John, Paul, George and Ringo, rock bands were expected to do it all and look good too.

In the course of seven short years, The Beatles led a wave that made teenybopper music into art and created an undying catalogue that would come to represent saccharine sentiments and overblown pop craft. Bad jazz singers and boring cover bands have made gallons of schlock from their songbook.

There have been good covers, of course, and tributes worth owning. Aki Takahashi has recorded great solo piano arrangements by the likes of John Cage, Frederic Rzewski, Carl Stone and Alvin Curran. Laibach bent Let it Be into an industrial dirge. Big City Orkestraw looped and mutated the boys on beatlerape. The Knitting Factory collected covers by Lydia Lunch, Eugene Chadbourne, Samm Bennett, King Missle and others on Downtown does The Beatles. Mike Westbrook's Off Abbey Road (Enja, 1990), with Phil Minton singing on half the tracks, has it's moments, and Sarah Vaughan's Songs of The Beatles is notable, if only for the chance to hear her warble "Come Together."

My collection, unfortunately, isn't limited to interpretations of merit. I have a regrettable tendency to horde the worst Beatles tributes I can find, which are generally available in the $2 bin.

Liverpool 1962 is an odd name for a 1990s mariachi record, but it leaves little doubt about the group's impetus. The 13-piece Mariachi Mexico de Pepa Villa make some frightfully lush detritus of the usual picks for sappy rendition ("Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "Michelle," "The Long and Winding Road," - yup, McCartney comps all), and stretch out to include a couple from the solo years (Lennon's "Woman" and McCartney's "No More Lonely Nights"). It's remarkable how trumpets and strings can sound like a cheap synthesizer in the right hands. The title track is an original composition that evokes the working class English like Bugs Bunny playing Napoleon.

When I was a teenager, a distant and senile relative invited me over to listen to his record of The Canadian Brass playing The Beatles. Polite Midwestern punk that I was, I said I'd like to and promptly fled. In later years, I regretted passing up the surreal opportunity, so I was excited when I later found their 1998 All You Need is Love. It's livelier than the mariachi tribute, which makes it even harder to listen to. The liner notes point out that "no one knows exactly when pop music crosses from its world into the classical domain," suggesting that somehow the quintet have bridged the gap. Maybe I should have stuck with punk.

The hallmark for insipid interpretation is of course Muzak, so I was stoked to find an actual Muzak cd in the cut-out bin at Tower Records. Surprisingly, it seems closer to the spirit of The Beatles than the preceding titles, if only for the presence of electric guitars. Instrumentally Yours was released in 1999, around the time the corporation was trying to update its image and began switching from elevator music to feeds of actual songs. The musician credits shed little light on the culprits of this watered-down apple martini (at least to me), but they do point out that proceeds from the disc go to the Heart & Soul Foundation. Muzak probably should have been a grant recipient rather than a benefactor.

Not in need of a heart transplant is David Peel, who had a counterculture hit with Have a Marijuana in 1968 and worked hard as hell to weave gold from the short straw of having met, and apparently been complimented by, John Lennon. Bring Back the Beatles, from 1977, is a stoner declaration of, uh, what was I talking about? Tracks include covers of "With a Little Help from my Friends" and "Imagine," adapted to the three chords Peel knew, and no end up tracks written for the subjects of his adoration ("The Beatles Pledge of Allegiance," "The Wonderful World of Abbey Road," "Apple Beatle Foursome," "The Ballad of James Paul McCartney," "Keep John Lennon in America" and, of course "B-E-A-T-L-E-S"). This is your brain. This is your brain in a skillet.



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Previous Bottom Shelf Articles:
Anthony Coleman's Bottom Shelf
Gary Lucas
Ron Anderson


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